Houston Lillard has done all he could these last few years to catch the eye of a scout from an Arena Football League or Canadian Football League team.
“I don’t know what else to do,” said Lillard. “I kind of beat myself up about it. But now I leave it up to God.”
So the Tri-Cities Fever quarterback made the decision a while back to sign with the Fever for the coming 2015 season, and he made it official on Tuesday.
“I kind of knew I was gonna come back,” said Lillard. “I just wanted to make sure I had my ducks all in a row.”
He got them lined up, and he’s ready to get some unfinished business done.
Lillard led the Fever to back-to-back appearances in the United Bowl — the Indoor Football League’s championship game — in 2011 and 2012. But he left the team in 2013, hoping for an opportunity at a higher level.
But it never came.
He rejoined the Fever midway through the 2014 season, when the team was struggling in the win-loss column.
Tri-Cities failed to make the IFL playoffs for the second consecutive season, but Lillard rallied the team back to finish woith an 8-6 record.
“I can say with much confidence, as you know, that if I had been on the team in camp, we might not have lost that many game,” Lillard said. “I regetted not playing in 2013.”
During that time, Lillard’s younger brother, Damian, was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA. Houston spent much of that time with his brother during Damian’s rookie season.
But Houston has his own fan base in the Tri-Cities, said Fever coach Adam Shackleford.
“He loves it here in the Tri-Cities,” said Shackleford. “At the end of the day, he’d love to play at the highest level. There are a lot of people who love him here. I have so much respect for him. He does his own thing. He’s got his own fans.
“Ask Damian who one of his heroes is, and he’ll say it’s Houston. He’s won football games. He does a lot of charity work.”
Shackleford recalls a point last season when Damian and their mother came to visit the Fever in the middle of the NBA playoffs.
Shackleford’s young son Caleb was with him and the Lillards back in his Fever office, and the coach wanted a picture of everyone together.
“We got the picture done, but Caleb was reaching for Houston,” said Shackleford.
Houston has created his own Fever family in the Tri-Cities. And he wants a stronger one.
Lillard has been in contact with a number of IFL veterans these past few weeks.
“I have been in contact with everybody I need to be in contact with,” said Lillard. “I have called them. But a lot of people have called me.”
He said some players were waiting to see what he was going to do, so they could sign with the same team.
Shackleford said second-year receiver Harry Peoples will be back, as will Dejuan Miller. The team is also talking to Jackie Chambers.
Other big names will be announced in the coming weeks, said Shackleford.
Lillard said he just wants to win. He has nothing left to prove.
“Hey, at this point I don’t care any more (about moving up the football ladder),” he said. “I can’t control things. And I am comfortable with that.”
Notes: Shackleford said he and Fever owner Teri Carr should have his contract finalized by Friday. ... The IFL meetings were held last week in Las Vegas. The league is working on finalizing the schedule. Divisions aren’t finalized, but the expansion Wichita Falls Nighthawks tweeted out that they were going to be in the Intense Conference, along with the Fever, the expansion Billings Wolves, Colorado Ice and the Nebraska Danger. Not mentioned was the Wyoming Cavalry, but the team is listed on the IFL website still. ... The United Conference will consist of the Bemidji Axemen, Cedar Rapids Titans, the Iowa Barnstormers — moving from the AFL, Green Bay Blizzard and Sioux Falls Storm. ... The Texas Revolution left the IFL and has moved to the Champions Indoor Football League — a new lineup of teams merging between the Midwest-based Champions Professional Indoor Football League and the Texas-based Lone Star Football League.